House lawmakers prep new satellite TV bill

A bipartisan team of House lawmakers will introduce a satellite television bill on Tuesday that matches an agreement with lawmakers in the Senate.

A House Energy and Commerce Committee spokesperson said that leaders of the panel will unveil a bill extending an expiring TV license and making a handful of relatively changes to the current television marketplace.

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The bill will reauthorize the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) — which allows about 1 million rural viewers to watch distant broadcast TV channels such as NBC and CBS through their satellite dish — for another five years.

The STELA Reauthorization Act also prohibits broadcasters from getting together to negotiate fees for cable and satellite companies to retransmit their channels and also phases out a security technology system in cable boxes over one year, among other changes.

The bill will be introduced by Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), ranking member Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Reps. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), the chairman and top Democrat on the panel’s Communications subcommittee.

The House previously passed a bill to extend STELA in July. That bill contained an additional measure giving broadcasters extra time to unwind resource-sharing deals that were effectively banned by the Federal Communications Commission earlier this year.

The new bill matches legislation in the Senate, which suggests lawmakers expect an easy vote in both chambers.

Some lawmakers in the Senate have vowed to protest the measure eliminating the cable box security standard, however, which they warn would allow cable companies to lock out third party firms such as TiVo.

The current satellite TV law expires Dec. 11. Reauthorization is considered one of the few “must-pass” pieces of legislation during the lame-duck session.